Unitas per Varietatem


Unity through diversity

To common human experience any entity appears distinct and different from any other entity. Diversity is the key distinguishing feature of life: we will never live two identical moments, nor will we perceive two identical places, two identical individuals, or two identical things. However, with the growth of knowledge one discovers general laws and principles unifying this apparent diversity. As one reaches higher and higher generalizations, all created things, divergent as they are, are found to be interrelated; the world proves to be a system in which the living and the non-living, the physical and the psychical, form an organic Unity.

Two forms of diversity

It takes at least two to have diversity. What is diversity for one is normality for the other, and vice versa. Diversity is a relational property, in the case of humans a social property. There are two forms of diversity.

The first, that we call essential diversity, relates to how entities behave and to the effects they produce. The entities’ essential diversity relates to their function, to how they contribute to the world. Essential diversity is related to a set of inner properties that are largely invisible and that it takes time to discover. In the case of people, some examples are values (e.g., personality, cultural values, socioeconomic background), skills and knowledge, cohort membership (e.g., organizational and group tenure). The second, that we call inessential, or superficial, diversity, relates to the appearance of entities, and, therefore, to a set of visible properties that are easily and immediately recognizable. In the case of people, some examples of superficial diversity are race, color, nationality, gender, age.

Essential diversity is something we exploit in everyday life, often without realizing it. We ask a doctor for a diagnosis and a treatment when we are ill, we call up a plumber if a pipe leaks in our house, and look for someone speaking our language and Chinese if we need to sort out arrangements for a stay in Beijing. Embracing and exploiting this type of diversity makes us do better as it allows to complement and integrate into a local unity the incompleteness of the parties involved. Inessential diversity is something that can make us feel uncomfortable giving rise to anxiety, fear, and sometimes bias, in particular when it is unexpected and is one of our unknown unknowns.

The virtualization of the world

Internet has transformed our lives by allowing us to transcend temporal, geographical and cultural borders. We get exposed daily to a seemingly unbound amount of diversity and, therefore, of opportunities, as generated by essential diversity; think for instance of the emergence of global digital platforms. At the same time, Internet does not allow for prolonged interactions, thus amplifying the effects of superficial diversity; think for instance of the emergence of online fake news, bias and unethical behavior. The further complication is that, in Internet, data are costly to generate, they are intermediated and not easily verifiable, and this provides a huge advantage to those who have the resources and competences for generating them. All of this while we, as humans, have basically the same instruments and skills to deal with diversity that our grandparents had 50 years ago.

The mission of DataScientia

DataScientia, for “Scientia per Data” the Latin text for “Knowledge through data”. Scientia, from sciens, the present participle of scio, meaning to know, to understand - the same root as conscientia, meaning both knowledge shared with others and knowledge within oneself. Data, the plural of datum, meaning a given, what we take for granted as the basis of our thinking - that we take here to be a digital representation of the world.

The vision of DataScientia is well represented by the sentence “Unitas per Varietatem”, the Latin text for “Unity through Diversity” - How can we reach to the Unity of Knowledge by understanding and thanks to the Diversity of Data?

The mission of Data Scientia is to enable ethical research and innovation, informed and driven by diversity - aware unitary data about language, knowledge and human behavior, as a step towards a better and more inclusive society.